McNair Airs, Texans Err in 38-17 Nightmare

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October 14, 2003
McNair Airs, Texans Err in 38-17 Nightmare

by Bob Hulsey

The Tennessee Titans wore their alternate jersies, the ones with Columbia Blue, resembling what they used to wear back when they were the Houston Oilers. But the Houston Texans looked more like the old Oilers in 38-17 loss in Nashville. The BudBoys are now 3-0 against their Houston substitutes.

Steve McNair, whose career started as an Oiler, picked apart the Texan secondary for 421 yards and three touchdowns in a performance that began almost flawlessly. Derrick Mason was on the receiving end for 177 of those yards.

Without Pro-Bowler Aaron Glenn, the Texan secondary looked clueless as Mason burned them for scores of 32, 46 and 50 yards, a mixture of bad coverage and bad tackling. Rookie Tyrone Calico added four catches for 92 yards as McNair made 17 completions of ten yards or more.

The Houston offense sputtered on their first two possessions while McNair hooked up twice with Mason for a 14-0 Tennessee lead. Texan quarterback David Carr began clicking on the third drive, hitting on six passes, but a personal foul on tackle Chester Pitts killed the momentum and Houston was forced to punt.

They got the ball back when McNair dropped a snap and Charlie Clemons recovered at the Houston 38. Carr gave it up though when a corner blitzer came through untouched and the pass went straight to linebacker Rocky Boiman for an interception. The two squads traded punts until Tennessee began at their own 12.

McNair hit Calico for passes of 23, 22 and 21 yards before Robert Holcombe powered it in from five yards to put the Titans up, 21-0.

Carr then showed some previously unseen skill in the two-minute offense, hitting Domanick Davis twice and hooking up with Andre Johnson to reach the Tennessee six-yard line. A penalty and an incompletion preceded a 29-yard field goal from Kris Brown to make the halftime score 21-3.

Houston got some momentum in the third quarter by stopping the opening drive of the Titans and then scoring a touchdown of their own. The scoring play came when Carr hit Corey Bradford who bobbled the ball, sidestepped a safety and outran the others for a 65-yard jaunt that looked similar to the one he scored in Miami to begin the season. Now behind by 11, there was hope the Texans could claw back into it.

Two punts later, McNair brought the Titans to the Houston 15 but settled for a 33-yard field goal from ancient Steeler nemesis Gary Anderson for a 24-10 advantage.

Carr answered with a nifty 23-yard strike to Bradford on a rollout but was flattened by tackle Albert Haynesworth after releasing the ball. The 15-yard penalty brought Houston to the Tennessee 37 but Carr was too woozy to stay in the game. Backup Tony Banks took one snap before Carr returned to toss two incompletions that halted the drive.

That was as close as the Texans would come. Tennessee opened the fourth quarter with a 50-yard catch-and-run by Mason that put the Titans up, 31-10. If it wasn’t already out of reach, it would be a minute later when Andre Dyson stepped in front of Carr’s sideline pass and pranced 51 yards to paydirt.

To the offense’s credit, they didn’t quit. Carr responded with an 80-yard scoring drive capped by a 13-yard pass to Derrick Armstrong followed by a drive that reached the Titans’ 8 before Andre Woolfolk’s interception.

Carr sailed past 300 passing yards and 350 passing yards for the first time in his NFL career, racking up 371 yards on 25-of-42 passing. Bradford piled up 127 receiving yards while Davis had 129 total yards, running and receiving. Billy Miller returned from the witness protection program to catch six passes for 47 yards.

But the offensive numbers couldn’t overcome a day where the defense loooked like the worst thing not wearing burnt orange or green and gold that weekend. They’ll try to do better this Sunday at Reliant Stadium against the New York Jets, a game that will be a CBS dress rehearsal for Super Bowl XXXVIII. It’ll be the closest the Texans will have to a prime time game this year and Dom Capers will no doubt expect a better performance than the one he saw in Nashville.

What Went Right?

Passing Offense Carr had a career day if it wasn’t for the three interceptions. He was mixing in a number of receivers and moving the ball well against a defense that nobody would call a pushover.

Domanick Davis
The rookie back from LSU is turning into a dandy of a fourth-round pick. He led the team in rushing (59 yards, including a slashing 22 yard scamper off right tackle) and caught seven passes for 70 yards. Good things continue to happen when he touches the ball.

The O-Line
They ain’t quite the Hogs but they no longer play like the Hogettes. They can actually keep Carr upright most of the time and on their better days actually open a hole for a running back. That’s a big improvement over last year and shouldn’t be taken for granted.They allowed just one sack and did their share to roll up a francise-record 458 total yards.

What Went Wrong?

Pass Rush
Children seeking autographs got closer to Steve McNair than the Texans front seven did on Sunday. Houston did register a sack but it’s not too impressive when the play actually resulted in no gain. Antwan Peek had a few trips to the backfield and Kailee Wong had one almost late hit but otherwise McNair was not lacking for time to throw. Which leads, like day into night, to…

Pass Defending
Coverage meltdowns were the order of the day. The Texans clearly had nobody who could stay with Mason or Calico and then added to their misery by poor tackling on top of their poor coverage. Let’s pray Glenn is back next week and Marcus Coleman stops reading his press clippings. Houston’s record day on offense was matched by a record stinker on defense.

While the final interception was in garbage time, the other two were at critical junctures. The first came right after a Houston fumble recovery could have changed the game’s momentum and the second came right after Tennessee had just scored. It’s part of the maturation process of a young quarterback. Key Play Of The Game

With a third-and-seven at midfield to open the fourth quarter, Mason lined up opposite free safety Matt Stevens. Lacking the speed to stay with Mason, Stevens played ten yards off the line. This made Mason an easy target for a slant route.

McNair got him the ball then Mason crossed the field, outran Stevens and the rest of the Houston secondary as he sailed down the right sideline for a 50-yard backbreaking touchdown. It put the Titans back up by 21 points and removed any hope of a Texan comeback. Week 5 Review David Carr fights off Kevin Carter to keep the Texans in the game. Final Score Houston Texans 17 Tennessee Titans 38 Lookin’ Good

Corey Bradford
The often overlooked third cog in the Texans passing attack took advantage of the special attention the Titans lavished on Andre Johnson to catch five passes for 127 yards, including a catch-and-run he took to the house in the third quarter. He made some other nice grabs. Teams that don’t pay Bradford any respect will regret it. Oh, my eyes!

Marcus Coleman
For the AFC Defensive Player of the Month, he turned back into a pumpkin to begin October. Other than one nice step-in to swat away a pass, Coleman looked like a beaten man all day, particularly when Mason ran right past him for a 46-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Coleman looked more like the guy we saw last season. 2003 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.09 Denver 12-20 08.15 at Dallas 6-34 08.23 San Diego 17-19 08.28 at Tampa Bay 3-34 Regular Season 09.07 at Miami 21-20 09.14 at New Orleans 10-31 09.21 Kansas City 14-42 09.28 Jacksonville 24-20 10.05 Bye 10.12 at Tennessee 17-38 10.19 New York Jets 14-19 10.26 at Indianapolis 21-30 11.02 Carolina 14-10 11.09 at Cincinnati 27-34 11.16 at Buffalo 12-10 11.23 New England 20-23 11.30 Atlanta 17-13 12.07 at Jacksonville 0-27 12.14 at Tampa Bay 3-16 12.21 Tennessee 24-27 12.28 Indianapolis 17-20   Overall Record 5-11